Low turnout expected for Tuesday primary

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But if early voting totals are any indication, not very many of them.

Susan Bilyeu, chief elections deputy for Secretary of State Dean Heller, said only about 65,000 Nevada voters had gone to the polls early as of Thursday and she expected the final count would be just over 72,000 when early voting shut down Friday night.

That is less than half the number who voted early in the 2000 general election.

But Bilyeu pointed out that was a general election in a year with a hotly contested presidential contest which drew thousands more to the polls in Nevada and millions nationwide.

Primaries, especially in nonpresidential years, draw far less voter interest. for example, the 1998 primary -- the last nonpresidential primary -- drew just 29.3 percent of Nevada's registered voters to the polls. That compares to the 46.4 percent who turned out to vote in the Bush-Gore contest of 2000.

This year, the problem is compounded by the apparent lack of a primary contest in several major races including governor. Gov. Kenny Guinn faces a half-dozen Republican challengers, but none with a statewide name or a budget to run on. In fact, Guinn earned more in bank interest on his $3 million in campaign contributions than any of his opponents received in contributions.

There is relatively little action among other statewide races in the primary elections, although Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt does face opposition from Gary Larrivee of Reno. He, however, has little name recognition, particularly in southern Nevada.

If she out polls him Tuesday, she can expect much more serious opposition in the general form another former Clark County commissioner, Democrat Erin Kenny. There are no primaries for treasurer, controller, secretary of state or or attorney general. However Republican Controller Kathy Augustine is facing a tough Democratic opponent in former Assemblyman John Lee in the general and Republican Brian Sandoval will face Democrat John Hunt for attorney general.

In the congressional races, there are primaries for both southern Nevada seats -- one of which is newly created this year by reapportionment.

But in the north, there is no primary opponent for Republican Jim Gibbons. In that race, one candidate is running from each party including the Democrats, Independent Americans, Libertarians and Natural Law.

The Legislature is another story. Because of several retirements and incumbent decisions to seek other offices, 11 of the 42 Assembly races have no incumbent including District 40 in Carson City and District 38 which covers part of the Capital, Storey and Lyon counties.

Carson City Clerk Alan Glover said those two races have helped increase early voting in the capital because both have contested Republican primaries. Assembly 38 is the district vacated when Joe Dini, D-Yerington, retired. His son, George, is unopposed as the Democratic contender to replace him but there are four Republican contenders led by former Yerington mayor and Nevada League of Cities director Tom Grady. The others in the primary race are Bud Southard, Roger Bishop and Donald Wagner.

Carson's District 40 was vacated by the surprise retirement of Democrat Bonnie Parnell. Stacie Wilke is unopposed in the Democratic primary. But there are three Republicans seeking the post: Bill Reeves, Ron Knecht and Tom Keeton.

The Carson City sheriff's race was also drawing substantial interest. As a result, turnout Friday passed 3,500 -- about the same as in 2000 and 1998.

With only the Republican and Democratic governor's primaries and an assessor's race on the ballot, Douglas County officials said their early voting turnout has been very light. The total was just over 1,500 as of mid-day Friday, according to elections deputy Concha Lord. That compares to 5,509 in the 2000 general elections.

In addition, there are four state Senate seats with no incumbent in the race -- but all are in Clark County.

State and county officials nonetheless urged people to turn out Tuesday and cast their ballots. As Glover pointed out, statistically each vote counts for more when the turnout is low.

The polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.


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